Monday, 26 June 2017

Lab Animal Day

This year, Monday 24th April was World Day for Laboratory Animals. Instituted in 1979, by the National Anti-Vivisection Society of the UK (NAVS), it has since been used to highlight the issues of unreliability of, and suffering caused by, animal research, and showing how better, more reliable alternatives are now available.

Animal testing, as we know it, is now around 150 years old. Whilst there have been many pharmaceutical products vital to human healthcare resulting from such research, many don't realise that the driving force behind such testing isn't the greater good, health, or longevity of us humans; it's profit.

The animal testing industry today focusses on advancing scientific understanding, developing solutions to medical problems, and protecting the safety of people, animals and the environment. However, such focus is only enabled through funding, and that comes, more than ever, from commercial pharmaceutical companies operating in commercial markets.

Of course, the UK and EU have legal requirements governing the use of research animals, and these encourage the use of alternative methods. Equally, researchers have good ethical, scientific and legal reasons to treat laboratory animals well and use them in minimum numbers. However, this still means that, to create a cure or treatment for a human ailment, they can inflict some of the most inhumane, cruel, and painful treatment on animals of all kinds. And, let's be honest, just as in every other aspect of life, not everyone undertaking animal research cares about the animals subjected to testing.

Courtesy NAVS
Over 50% of the 6000 primates used in European laboratories each year are used for regulatory testing. Dogs, too are used for such tests, more-so than monkeys: in the UK alone, roughly 3000 dogs and 2000 monkeys are subjected to painful experiments, each year. According to Understanding Animal Research,
"Over three quarters of animals used in research are rodents - mice and rats. Fish, amphibians, birds, rabbits and larger mammals such as pigs and sheep are also used. Cats, dogs and monkeys together make up only about two in every 1000 research animals."
We'll leave you to do the maths on how many animals are used in testing each year, but the last year for which we have records (2012), saw the UK alone use 4.11 million animals.

Because it's so widely practiced, and has been for so long, people often  believe that it's not only effective, but safe. However, the scientific community is increasingly highlighting the fact that the differences between humans and other animals, in relation to such testing, is much larger – and more problematic – than originally thought. Whilst many animal are remarkably similar under the skin, even our closest biological matches are very, very different.

You may not be aware of the type and scope of experiments undertaken on animals: we're not going to show you in this newsletter, however, we do recommend that you head to the World Day for Laboratory Animals website, and read the case studies: these really highlight the dangers of relying on animal testing … the dangers to us that is. They also reveal some of the ways that companies cover up misleading results, poor treatment, or use animals that are noted as being unsuitable for gaining certain types of results. It's pretty sobering.

It may not be pleasant, but you'll also come to understand the extent, and – let's be honest – the horrific nature of some the tests that animals are subjected to. It won't be pleasant reading, and you may even be shocked at what a company is allowed – sometimes forced by legislation – to do to animals. But we still recommend you take a look, if only because vivisection is partly still prevalent because companies believe it's what the public want.

But do they? Most of the general public have no idea of the nature of tests used in vivisection, let alone the species of animals used. Vivisection is rarely discussed openly, for a number of reasons: one of the biggest reasons, is that companies know that animal cruelty is a big turn-off for most consumers, even under the pretext of 'testing' within clinical environments. Few people can justify the torture and killing of an animal for a diaper, a pet food (yes, you read it right), or contact lenses.

You can read more about animal testing, failed tests, and some of the technology that can help eradicate animal testing at 

For the other side of the story, visit to see its take on why we should continue with animal research.

And to see how you can help minimise your contribution to animal cruelty, in all areas of research, checkout the National Anti-Vivisection Society,

Finally, head over to to see how you can directly help those developing alternatives to animal research.

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